Most Popular Sapporo Autumn Events and Festivals 2018
One of Japan’s traditional religious events, the original purpose of the extraordinary Tengu-no-hiwatari festival was to ensure the safety and success of the important local fishing industry. In this article, I’m going to introduce you to this flashy outstanding event!
Though its origins remain unclear, a local centenarian reports remembering the festival taking place as a young girl. As such, it is reasonable to assert that this magnificent fire-walking spectacle dates back over a century.
Sarutahiko: a Shinto deity, usually depicted wearing a tengu mask.
Tengu: a demon in Japanese mythology, easily identifiable by its characteristic long nose.
Hiwatari: the act of walking through fire.
The main event of the festival is the tengu-no-hiwatari – the fire-walking itself. A man of 30 – 40 years represents the god Sarutahiko, donning a tengu mask and red clothing. The representative leads a portable shrine (mikoshi) around the town – the purpose of this being to purify his body.
Afterward, the Sarutahiko makes his way to the main shrine (along with the portable shrine), where the magnificent hiwatari takes place.
Each year, almost 1,000 people come to witness the surreal (and slightly nerve-wracking!) sight of the Sarutahiko stepping through the flames. The fire itself is around 3 meters high, and the Sarutahiko will cross it a total of 3 times. The sound of drums and flutes in the background also add a sense of wild, spiritual excitement to the overall atmosphere.
Each year, the locals choose who will portray the Sarutahiko. Those who have previously played the part look back on it positively as an amazing experience, considering it an honor to have been chosen for such a distinguished role. For as long the locals of Furubira continue to value their folk traditions, this is a festival that will surely continue for many years to come.
For health and safety reasons, visitors may watch but are unable to participate in the performance. I highly recommend bringing a good quality camera, as this is a perfect opportunity for you to take some truly once-in-a-lifetime photographs!
Being a fishing region, the fresh, local seafood is a must-try. From June to August, the area’s most popular delicacy is sea urchin, with squid coming into season during the autumn months.
Date & time
Usually the 2nd weekend of July and 2nd weekend of September each year (2018’s dates were 14th & 15th July and 8th & 9th September).
Location & address
Ebisu Shrine (September): 989 Furubira-cho, Furuhira-gun, Hokkaido, Japan.
Midori Park (July): 42-1 Shinchi-machi, Furunira-cho, Furuhira-gun, Hokkaido, Japan.
Official homepage of the event (Japanese only): http://www.town.furubira.lg.jp/tourism/detail.php?id=88
Approximately a 2-hour drive from Sapporo. Please note that there is no car park at the venue itself. However, car parking is available nearby.
For further details please see: http://www.town.furubira.lg.jp/tourism/
Of Japan’s hundreds of festivals, all of which offer something new and exciting to visitors, with the rise in large-scale, commercially based events, it is these older, religious & smaller-scale cultural gems that are sadly at risk of becoming a dying breed. And yet it is through these smaller, quirkier, local festivals that Japan’s unique beauty and historic identity are able to survive. Wherever your time in Japan takes you, I wholeheartedly recommend ‘going local,’ and witnessing one of these hard-to-find spectacles.
If you would like a local person to take you to this festival, and tell you even more about the event and surroundings, please check the banner below.
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Image courtesy of Tomomarusan
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